As Temple Beth El’s spiritual leader since 1992, Rabbi Joshua Hammerman has focused his efforts on creating an oasis of warmth, love and mutual respect, befitting the role of a modern congregation in an increasingly complex world. At the same time, he strives to challenge congregants — and himself — to reach ever higher in setting spiritual and ethical objectives, and to delve more deeply into the rich vein of Jewish inspiration and wisdom available to us. He has been a champion of inclusiveness and innovation in synagogue life, implementing programs like Synaplex and Shabbat Unplugged while embracing people of all backgrounds and faiths.
During his time at Temple Beth El, Rabbi Hammerman has been president of the Interfaith Council of Southwestern Connecticut and the Stamford Board of Rabbis, a chaplain for the Stamford Police, and a member of the pastoral advisory committee of Stamford Health Systems. He also serves on the Rabbinic Leadership Council, a select group of rabbis chosen by Chancellor Arnold Eisen of the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS). He is a member of the faculty of CLAL, the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, and has been heavily involved in many Jewish think tanks, including JESNA’s Jewish Education 3.0 project, STAR-Tech and Synaplex.
A noted cyber-Rebbe, Rabbi Hammerman has pioneered the use of the Internet for inspirational and educational purposes, and his blog, On One Foot, is followed worldwide. On One Foot, the column, has appeared regularly in The New York Jewish Week since 1994. In 2009, he won the Simon Rockower Award, the highest honor in Jewish journalism. He is the author of thelordismyshephered.com: Seeking God in Cyberspace and co-author of the children’s book, I Have Some Questions About God. His new book Mensch•Marks has received critical acclaim.
Rabbi Hammerman was ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1983 after receiving a master’s degree in journalism from N.Y.U. and a B.A., magna cum laude, from Brown University. He came to Temple Beth El as its assistant rabbi in 1987. In 2010, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from JTS for his years of service to the Jewish people.
Rabbi Hammerman loves surfing the Internet, rooting for the Boston Red Sox, a good, Israeli hummus, and all things Jewish. He is also an active supporter of Brown University, often conducting alumni interviews of prospective students. He lives in Stamford with his wife, Dr. Mara Hammerman, a psychologist. They have two children, Ethan and Daniel, along with two standard poodles.
Contact Rabbi Hammerman: email@example.com | (203) 322-6901 x 307.
As Temple Beth El’s executive director, Steven Lander has been an integral part of the Fairfield County Jewish community ever since he moved to the area in 1969 and became youth director, program director and then executive director at the Norwalk Jewish Community Center.
In 1975, Steven co-founded Amazing Stores, building up the chain to seven stores in Connecticut. Following his 20-year reign as “Mr. Amazing,” he became director of development for the Human Services Council in Norwalk and served on its board of directors. Throughout this time, Steven remained active in Jewish affairs serving as president of the Norwalk Jewish Community Center; campaign chairman of the Norwalk UJA Federation; as well as president and treasurer of Beth Israel Synagogue in Norwalk.
In 2000, Steven returned to Jewish communal work, serving as executive director of Congregation Agudath Sholom in Stamford for seven years before joining the staff at Temple Beth El.
Steven’s wife, Lieba Lander, is an administrator at the Gan Yeladim Pre-School. The Landers have three children: Joshua, Deborah (who lives in Israel), and Karen; and five grandchildren.
Contact Steven: firstname.lastname@example.org | (203) 322-6901 x 304.
Lisa Gittelman Udi runs Temple Beth El’s Religious School and coordinates all adult education, teen programming and High Holidays children’s activities, among her other responsibilities. She is a dynamic and creative educator and skilled administrator with 15 years of experience as an educational director for various synagogues, including Greenwich Reform Synagogue. She also worked as a youth director and was the teen Jewish resource specialist supervisor at Surprise Lake Camp in New York State.
Lisa is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of USC and has extensive post-graduate training in Jewish education, folklore and mythology. She and her husband, Amnon, have two grown sons, Adam and Jordan.
Contact Lisa: email@example.com | (203) 322-6901 x 305.
Katherine (Katie) Kaplan has served congregations as a Cantorial Soloist throughout New England and New York. A professional soprano and prayer leader, she brings meaningful connection to communities through contemplative and spiritual musical services.
Katie’s passion for Judaism began at a very young age and her musical training evolved on a parallel track with her spiritual journey. Over the past 10 years, these paths have trended toward one another, and she is eager to bring all her skill sets together to serve the TBE community. Katie holds a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance from New York University and a Master of Science in Education from the University of Bridgeport. She is currently pursuing cantorial studies at the Academy for Jewish Religion in Yonkers, New York.
Katie also has extensive classroom and private studio experience with students of all ages. As Choral Director and Middle School Music Department Chair at St. Luke’s School in New Canaan, she has coached award-winning choral ensembles to perform at music competitions and on international concert tours. At TBE, she has served as “Song Leader” in the Religious School for the past three years and collaborated with TBE clergy and staff to create innovative services, while introducing the students to a variety of new and traditional Jewish music.
In her roles as prayer leader, choral conductor, performer, songwriter, and music educator, Katie maintains a passion for uniting and inspiring people through song. She and her husband, Eric, live in Stamford with their two children, Ethan and Vivian, and have been TBE members for 16 years. She looks forward to growing and sharing her love of Jewish music and prayer with our community.
Contact Katie: KatieKaplan@tbe.org.
Beth Styles is an award-winning composer, producer, artist and community leader whose work is celebrated in synagogues across the country and performed by some of the great artists and cantors of our time.
As a national Jewish touring artist in residence, Beth partners with clergy to create transcendent Shabbat services and uplifting concerts. She is widely known for her soulful sound and unique ability to connect music and hearts to the words and meaning of prayer.
Beth writes, arranges and produces music for internationally well-known singer/songwriters, and is passionate about creating meaningful events that bring people together. As founder and music director of the New World Chorus, Beth has collaborated to produce powerful, interfaith gatherings over the past decade. She created The Shabbat Experience, bringing hundreds of people together to share spirituality through song. In addition to music, Beth has gained recognition as a painter, with work featured in festivals and regularly commissioned.
Beth’s songs during her time as TBE’s High Holy Days Music Director have already become part of TBE’s beloved traditions, including Yehi Ratzon, Shehecheyanu and Grateful. She looks forward to sharing new music this year. Beth and her partner, Lisa, live in Stamford.
Contact Beth: BethStyles@tbe.org.
Rabbi Gerry Ginsburg, a 30-year member of Temple Beth El, joins Rabbi Hammerman in providing pastoral support. This includes hospital visits and leading shiva minyanim. He also leads adult education classes throughout the year, delivers divrei Torah and officiates at services.
After graduating from Ohio University’s School of Journalism, Rabbi Ginsburg and his wife Fran moved to New York City. He began his career as a magazine editor. Then, after receiving his MBA from NYU, he worked on the business side of media. In 1986, he and his wife, Dr. Frances Ginsburg, moved to Stamford. He later opened his own consulting firm specializing in publishing and international direct marketing.
In 2012, Rabbi Ginsburg started as a full-time student at the Academy for Jewish Religion, a pluralistic Jewish seminary in Yonkers, NY. He earned an MA in Jewish Studies there in 2017 and received his rabbinic ordination in 2019. While a student, he served as Rabbinic Intern at Congregation Kneses Tiffereth Israel in Port Chester, NY; Student Rabbi at Congregation Sinai in Milford, CT; and Student Rabbi at Congregation Shaaray Tefila in Glens Falls, NY.
Rabbi Ginsburg is a member of the Association of Rabbis and Cantors (ARC).
Rabbi Vicki Axe joins Rabbi Hammerman on the bima for all Shabbat morning services that include a Bar or Bat Mitzvah. She recently retired as the founding spiritual leader and educational director of Congregation Shir Ami in Greenwich.
Rabbi Axe received a Bachelor of Music Education from Temple University, a Master of Arts in Music Education from the Ohio State University, and a degree in sacred music and ordination as Cantor from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music. In 2008, she was awarded a Doctor of Music, honoris causa, from HUC-JIR and rabbinic ordination from the Rabbinical Academy of America. In 2016, she received her Doctor of Ministry in Pastoral Care and Counseling from HUC-JIR.
A master teacher, Rabbi Axe has prepared hundreds of children for B’nai Mitzvah, taught cantorial and rabbinic students at the Academy of Jewish Religion and HUC-JIR, presented workshops on Jewish music and Jewish life, and visited many congregations as a scholar-in-residence. She is also past president of both the American Conference of Cantors and the HUC-JIR Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music Cantorial Alumni Association.
Rabbi Axe and her husband of 48 years are the proud parents of four sons along with their life-mates, and four grandchildren.
Cantor Moshe Bear coordinates the B’nai Mitzvah program at Temple Beth El, where he has served as B’nai Mitzvah tutor for several years. Cantor Bear received his Cantorial ordination from the Academy for Jewish Religion, and has served as Cantor at Temple Gates of Prayer in Flushing, NY, for over 12 years.
Cantor Bear is a Jewish educator for all age groups. He is a master teacher. His B’nai Mitzvah program has won a top award from the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. He considers this aspect of his career to be perhaps the most satisfying of his work in the Jewish world. He believes that “building” Jews, who are ritually self-sufficient and spiritually grounded (from the inside out), is the most effective approach to creating and retaining congregants who lead Jewishly fulfilled lives.
Cantor Bear is also an accomplished performer, director, and producer. He is the Director of the Long Island Chapter of HaZamir, the International Jewish Teen Choir, and has concertized in North America, Europe and Israel. In addition to television appearances as a singer of Jewish music, Cantor Bear has performed often at Cantors Assembly gatherings and missions to Poland and Israel.
Cantor Bear believes his best work to be his two wonderful children Mia and Nathaniel.
Jami Fener is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with extensive leadership experience at Mount Sinai Healthcare System and the Jewish Child Care Association. A few years ago, she returned professionally to her passion for Jewish programming, serving as program coordinator at Schoke Jewish Family Service for both the Jewish 20’s and 30’s program and the Brain Fitness program. She has also served as an assistant preschool teacher at The Conservative Synagogue of Westport and as a substitute teacher in our synagogue’s Religious School.
Jami grew up at TBE, became a Bat Mitzvah here, and returned as a member when she and her husband, Scott, relocated to Stamford. Their son, Matthew, is a third-generation TBE member.
Contact Jami: firstname.lastname@example.org | (203) 322-6901 x 311.
Hazzan Emeritus Sidney G. Rabinowitz, formerly Cantor and Director of Musical Activities at Temple Beth El, is a graduate of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. He is a member of the Cantors Assembly, from which he was commissioned, and served as a member of its Executive Council on the Commission of Youth Activities. He is an Honorary Fellow of the Cantors Institute and a past president of the Connecticut Region of the Cantors Assembly.
Hazzan Rabinowitz also distinguished himself as an interpreter of Jewish music, conducting three choirs at Temple Beth El. In addition to their extensive repertories, the choirs often premiered new works of Jewish music composed specifically for them. Among the many honors he has received, Hazzan Rabinowitz was named “Clergy of the Year” in 1995 by The Council of Churches and Synagogues — the first Jewish clergy in Stamford to be the recipient of this honor.
In May 2002, Hazzan Rabinowitz was honored by Temple Beth El and the Stamford Community upon his retirement after 32 years of service. In March 2006, Hazzan Rabinowitz was honored by the Jewish Theological Seminary with the degree of Doctor of Music Honoris Causa.
Hazzan Rabinowitz was married to the former Sondra “Sandy” Resnick, of blessed memory. He is the father of three daughters, ten delightful grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. He now resides in Burke, Virginia.